If you’re jaded by the claim of another 33-year-old singer-songwriter with good lyrics, a strong voice and adequate chops as a guitarist, pianist and arranger, Cole Guerra–described above–is someone to hear. Here’s another claim requesting indifference: Cole Guerra is different. Really.
Guerra isn’t your orthodox singer-songwriter with curly locks expressing dreadnought desires about a girl that made the wise decision to depart. Instead, Guerra writes smartly constructed, open-ended vignettes–sonically and lyrically–about the disappointment and excitement inherent in blown opportunities, and his edge has never been as sharp and his form never as accessible as on his second album, Scarves & Knives. Guerra isn’t trying to sell his soul: He’s trying to save it, watching those around him and juxtaposing his own well-on-the-line insecurities and shortcomings with theirs.
There’s the ill-fated pro/antagonist of “Left Coast Hopes,” a tribute to the Los Angeles fallen angels who “were fated to be someone” but can’t cast their over-ambitions aside long enough to become themselves. There’s the pop singer on the to-stage stairs, shaking in his skin with the “heebie jeebies,” privately hoping that he’s not the public fascination much longer. And, of course, there’s the opening one-two sequence of “Away Awhile”–about loveless sex and the empty quest for innocence–followed by a single waiting in the wings, “Holed Up,” a nervous jitter about chemically based sleep deprivation.
Cole Guerra cuts to the quick when he writes, not offering deadpan dissertations on character or over-involved romantic descriptions. Instead, Guerra–a former clinical psychology doctorate student who, luckily, couldn’t quit toying with his real passion long enough to study–plots failings with empathy, judging them not out of superiority but out of a need to arrive at the better habits of his folly. In the lineage of Elvis Costello and Aimee Mann, Cole Guerra–backed here by an able, austere band led by J.D. Foster (Richard Buckner, Laura Cantrell) and Ted Reichman (Paul Simon, John Hollenbeck)–is an intimidatingly perceptive and suggestive new voice.
Cole Guerra and The Old Ceremony play with Jackie O Pillbox at Local 506 on Friday, Nov. 18 at 10 p.m.